The Nursery Rhymes portfolio derived from drawings Paula Rego made for her granddaughter Carmen for her second birthday. She drew those rhymes that Carmen knew, and these drawings, in ink and wash, were much simpler than the prints. The artist worked directly on the plates, and it is a measure of her draughtmanship that few had to be written off. The printing was undertaken by Paul Coldwell, himself an artist, at the Culford Press. He described the experience as a joy 'because her images are so strongly drawn. At various points in the making of a print she insists on looking at it from a distance. Most artists work with the print under their noses, and only see at the private view that the image is unreadable at anything over six inches.' The artist had wanted the prints to be strong and direct and wanted them to work, as she said, 'biff-bang'.
Nursery rhymes are traditional rhymes passed on to children by adults. The first known book of rhymes was published around 1744. Many have sought to find hidden meanings or references to political satire within the verse but most are simply nonsensical rhymes that delight and amuse small children.
Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.